Transformative Equality: eliminating the impeding factors for women’s equality


This article explores a provision within the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol). The African Women’s Protocol was adopted within an environment that excluded women politically, economically, and socially in Africa.[1] As a result, the newly formed African Union Commission ensured the promotion of gender equity. Changes effected include a 50/50 representation of membership and renaming of the leading role within the commission to Chairperson.[2] These changes served as the first few steps of transformation for equality at regional level.

Article 9 of the African Women’s Protocol

Article 9, the right to participation in the political and decision-making process (article 9)[3] is the focus on this article. This provision highlights affirmative action for equal participation, with the following aspects of the provision highlighting an approach to transformation:

  • Participation in elections;
  • Equal representation;
  • Increased and equal contribution to policy-making and implementation at all levels of government.

The provision is transformative as it aims to change governance systems to create opportunities for women by eliminating the dominant social characteristic of men.[4] The provision binds governments to change the dominance of male representation at national and regional levels.[5]

Structural inequality against women exists within social systems.[6] These could be argued as political, religious and cultural systems where women have had less representation in leadership. The national and regional contexts of the systems are important for examining the measures required for states to achieve transformative equality. It is argued that the masculinity presented in these systems reflects the control over the fear and loss of the power it possesses.[7] Other authors argue that the economic system should also be reviewed given the structural nature of inequality against women.[8] Transformative equality as an approach is aimed at reshaping and changing the dominant systems that create inequality.[9] This would result in an increase in representation of women in policy-making in both national and regional structures.

Article 9 addresses inequality where men are dominant in politics and government. The measures in place include ensuring the election of women into parliament and government employment as the foundation for equality.[10] Discriminatory and limiting provisions of national laws served as a starting point for states to address inequality. This proved insufficient resulting in the implementation of more proactive legislative reforms. For example, some Sub-Saharan African nations have quotas for women in parliament or election party candidates.[11] Sub-regional mechanisms are also in place to compliment the African Women’s Protocol and address context-specific issues. As such, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat has the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (SADC Gender Protocol).[12]

Like the African Women’s Protocol except for the specific deadline, the SADC Gender Protocol required women to hold 50% for all decision-making positions in both the public and private sectors by 2015.[13] As evidenced, the SADC Gender Protocol is specific to the measures for compliance. Another example is the requirement of states to ensure the employment of all widows.[14] Article 9 provides an overarching guideline to women’s participation whereas the national and regional mechanisms provide specificity for compliance with article 9.

As a basis for transformative equality, there is a need to better understand and articulate the result of reforms for policy-making and participation. This is shared in both the SADC Gender Protocol and African Women’s Protocol for addressing the exclusion of women in politics.[15] Reviewing cultural and religious paradigms is critical in addressing inequality.[16] However, although both paradigms are administratively regulated by government, their structures have specific guidelines or constitutions for engagement. This includes operations, membership or identity and remedy. Feminist activists have been working on challenging these systems of patriarchy because of injustices women face.[17] This includes churches, traditional arrangements and government. The issues raised include violence and disregard of women. It is argued that states have not done enough to address these issues, despite policy reforms.[18] The article presents Botswana’s progress within this context.

Botswana’s progress to comply with article 9


Botswana is not party to the SADC Gender Protocol, citing provisions for the support of widows as being unrealistic and that provisions are too instructive.[19] Despite this, measures for compliance relevant to article 9 that Botswana is signatory to include the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICPPR), CEDAW, the African Charter and the International Conference on People and Development (ICPD) amongst others.[20] As a result, national laws have been reviewed to be more gender sensitive. Transformative equality in Botswana is most successful in areas of education and health.[21]

Botswana has two legal systems affecting women’s rights; customary and common law.[22] Progress has been made within common law on eliminating discriminatory provisions for women however, customary law remains exclusive. Legislative reforms were made in marriage, physical integrity, ownership of assets and employment were made amongst others. Specific to the three components presented by article 9, election processes, policy-making and implementation: Section 15 of the Constitution provides for non-discrimination on the basis of sex except for in matters of personal law.[23] Progress has been made in election processes and policy-making by making accommodations in enabling women to participate in traditional leadership representation and run for public office. However, a gap remains for women’s representation in parliament. Women only comprise of 8% of parliament compared to 47% in South Africa.[24]

In 2013, 44% of state administrators were women, with eligibility for the armed forces enabled in 2008.[25] Other statistics include women comprising of 72% of high-level roles in government, 37% in state owned enterprises and 21% in the private sector. Notably, positions of Ombudsman, Governor of the Reserve Bank, Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly are held by women. However this is not sufficient. In compliance with article 9, Botswana lags behind as preliminary primary elections within political party systems impede women representation.[26] One of the main limitations presented by Botswana on ensuring equality is financial constraints.[27] In addition, it could be argued that there is a lack of tangible state mechanisms to ensure the achievement of transformative equality.

State mechanisms

Aside from being accountable to sub-regional and global mechanisms indicated in the developments section, Botswana has several mechanisms in place to address inequality. The National Development Plan 10 acknowledges the need to empower women in various sectors. This is further articulated in the National Policy on Gender and Development; of which the Gender Affairs Department within the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs is responsible for implementation and coordinating nationally.[28] 5% of the ministry’s budget is reserved for the department’s activities on a recurring basis.[29] This form of gender-based budgeting is replicated in other ministries within government.[30] Another mechanism, the nation’s Vision 2016 includes the equality of opportunities for all; translating to ensuring that government consultations with various stakeholders are gender inclusive.[31] Furthermore, affirmative action is the cornerstone for transformative equality within the National Policy on Gender and Development.[32] This has resulted in an increase of women in decision-making positions within government, state-owned enterprises and the private sector.[33] Notably, partnerships have supported addressing the many challenges women face in Botswana. Specific to article 9, this includes participation in the Community of Democracies[34] and assessments of country commitment to gender equality such as the African Gender and Development Index.[35] These have complimented the measuring of progress and contributed in effecting change.

Fundamental Change relevant to article 9

Women now voluntarily and proactively participate in politics.[36] The structures have been reformed from a policy level perspective, to remove the inequalities between women and men.[37] This is in compliance with article 9’s requirement for participation in elections.

Conclusion and Recommendations


This paper explored article 9 as an approach to transformative equality. Botswana has made significant progress across many sectors for women’s rights aimed at equality; notably, in the participation of women in elections and representation in decision-making and policy implementation through acquiring leadership positions. More work is needed to meet the last requirement; equal representation.  Recommendations have been made for the state to take action to comply.

4.2 Recommendations for state action

Botswana, like other African nations have done, should impose a quota system for women in political electoral candidates,[38] ideally at 50% representation. This requires legislative change, equal opportunity and up-skilling of oversight bodies. Botswana should also sign the SADC Gender Protocol[39] to ensure accountability and expediting transformative equality in policy-making and implementation thereof.



[1] F Viljoen An introduction to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2009) 12.

[2] Viljoen (n 1 above) 13.

[3] African Women’s Protocol.

[4] J Hearn ‘From hegemonic masculinity to hegemony of men’ (2004) 5 (1) Feminist Theory 59.

[5] n 3 above

[6] M Kimmel The Gendered Society (2004) 43.

[7] S Faudi ‘Stiffed: The betrayal of the American man’ unpublished PhD thesis Eastern Kentucky University.

[8] J Hearn ‘From hegemonic masculinity to hegemony of men’ (2004) 5 (1) Feminist Theory 55.

[9] UNAIDS ‘UNAIDS Gender Assessment Tool’ (2014) 4.

[10] ‘Journey to Equality: 10 Years on the Protocol on the rights of women in Africa’ (2013).

[11] n 10 above.

[12] SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

[13] n 12 above.

[14] n 12 above.

[15] n 1 above.

[16] Thabo Mbeki Foundation ‘International Women’s Day concept note’ (2016).

[17] n 16 above.

[18] ‘SADC presses Botswana to sign Gender Protocol’ Mmegi 13 August 2015.

[19] ‘SADC Protocol on Gender, Development review starts’ The Herald 5 November 2015.

[20] Botswana Country Report on the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing Plus 20 Years) 2014.

[21] n 20 above.

[22] United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV and AIDS (UNGASS) 2012.

[23] Section 15, Constitution of Botswana 1966.

[24] Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (2009) Botswana NGO’s Shadow Report to CEDAW,

[25] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2010) ‘Summary record of the 921st meeting CEDAW/C/SR.921’.

[26] n 20 above.

[27] n 20 above.

[28] n 20 above.

[29] n 20 above.

[30] n 20 above.

[31] n 20 above.

[32] ‘BONELA challenges Botswana to sign the SADC Gender Protocol’ Mmegi

[33] n 27 above.

[34] Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society

[35] n 22 above.

[36] Botswana making strides in women empowerment

[37] Kimmel (n 8 above) 4-5.

[38] n 10 above.

[39] n 35 above.


Written by Dumiso Gatsha, M. Phil, B.Com &PhD (Candidate),

Executive Coordinator – Success Capital Organization

AfriNYPE Country Coordinator in Botswana. Can be contacted on

Edited by Seleman Yusuph Kitenge

Youth Development Expert,

PGD – Management of Foreign Relations, BA in Sociology (Hons), Dipl. Public Sector Financial Mgt.

Director of Media & Communication, AfriNYPE.

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